Peau d'âne frame grab courtesy of Ciné-Tamaris
I am currently an Assisant Professor of Media and Cinema Studies in the College of Media at the Univeristy of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. I have taught hundreds of students the intricacies of film history, style, and media production. I'm also a researcher interested in American and French cinema, the musical genre, dance in film, animation, VFX, the Harry Potter film franchise, and more.
For more information on what I do, you can read my full CV here.
An Aesthetic of Contradictions: Jacques Demy, Choreography, and the Musical Genre
My current research challenges the perception that describing movement on screen is overly complex and not worth the effort. I seek to better understand how choreography (of dancers and moving bodies more generally) functions in relation to film style and narrative. In my work I combine tools of film studies (historical poetics, neoformalist analysis, and stylistics) with those of dance studies (Laban Movement Analysis). My certification in LMA, an internationally recognized system for objectively and systematically analyzing the expressivity of the human body in all states of movement, gives additional credibility to my close analysis.
Bringing together the tools of film and movement analysis, I analyze three films by French director Jacques Demy as my case studies: The Young Girls of Rochefort (1967), Donkey Skin (1970), and Three Seats for the 26th (1988). Few scholarly works exist on Demy’s films, and little has been written about two crucial aspects of his aesthetic: his rigorous choreography (organization) of figure movement and dance to enhance stylistic and narrative qualities, and his experimentation with elements of the American film musical. My research asks how does choreography (dance and figure movement) function in Demy’s filmmaking aesthetic? How does an analysis of those films that influenced his aesthetic help us contextualize Demy historically and explain his stylistic and narrative choices? How can we best understand the changing relationship between Demy’s films and the (largely American) musical genre that fascinated him? And what are the implications of applying this movement analysis methodology to a broader study of media?
I challenge the claim that Demy wanted to make a musical à l’américaine with The Young Girls of Rochefort. I study the stylistic intersections that Demy creates in Donkey Skin, from a juxtaposition of dance styles to the genre play that emerges from a blend of musical and fairy-tale conventions. And I compare Demy’s mode of production under different financial and collaborative circumstances in Three Seats for the 26th. My work provides an in-depth study of Demy's formal strategies and a revisionist history of his career and relationship to the musical genre. Such a methodology has myriad applications and can be applied to movement in moving images more generally, from better understanding historical shifts in film style to studying personal movement and performance predilections.